GM board offers Bellows Falls principal contract

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2023 Telegraph Publishing LLC

After a public forum and an interview with two candidates on Monday night, the Green Mountain Unified School District board voted to offer Bellows Falls Union High Principal John Broadley the principal post at Green Mountain High when Keith Hill steps down at the end of June.

Kieth Matte, who is currently the assistant principal at Lebanon (N.H.) High School was the other finalist.

John Broadley answers questions on Zoom

The public forum took place between 6  and 8 p.m. with one finalist taking questions on Zoom, while the other met with an in-person audience for 45 minutes. Then they switched. At 9 p.m. the GM board interviewed each in turn and, just before 10 p.m., the board announced its decision. It also authorized Two Rivers Supervisory Union Superintendent Lauren Fierman to offer Broadley a one-year contract and negotiate a salary package. It has been reported that he currently receives $102,000 as BFUHS principal.

Broadley has been the principal at Bellows Falls for the past two years and assistant principal for 12 years before that. He has been at BFUHS since 2002, beginning as a special education teacher, then as a math teacher. Earlier this year, he sent the Bellows Falls board a letter saying that he would not seek to renew his contract. News reports indicated that the reason for this appears to be disagreements Broadley had with the school board. “GM board members were aware that Broadley had decided to resign and that there was discussion in the community around that,” said Fierman.

Lebanon Assistant Principal Kieth Matte on Zoom

Of the 29 people attending the forum by Zoom, nearly all were either school employees or board members although some of the employees also have children who are – or will be – attending the high school. At the in-person forum, there were about 20 attending with seven of those being school board members as well as a couple of students.

Questions tended to be less about specific educational matters and more toward safety, styles of discipline and ways to engage students and parents with the school.

Both candidates stressed that a school has to be a safe place for children to learn. They also pointed to having well-understood consequences for misbehavior and making those consequences part of a learning experience as well. Matte said the consequences should be “thoughtful” while Broadley said that what is important is the learning that follows the consequences.

“School is the best place to make mistakes and learn from them,” said Broadley.

Asked what “out of the box” things they would do to engage students, Broadley suggested offering “big school opportunities” including more Advance Placement classes, work-based learning and Tech Center classes. Matte pointed to a weekly meeting he holds to discuss helping “vulnerable kids” and how to engage them.

“Every kid should have that one trusted adult in the building,” said Matte.

The question of how to handle the recent controversies surrounding the “Chieftain” school mascot designation and racism directed toward one young student was posed to both candidates. Broadley said it was hard to know since he is not in the schools and around the controversy. Matte told the Zoom audience that his school had dropped its Native American mascot but the alumni association had kept it. He said that at that point, members of the school band did not want to play in the alumni parade with the mascot. He said there was passion on both sides that is not going to change but “you have to listen to the other side and try to understand. It’s a lot of work to keep both sides listening.”

On Tuesday, Fierman told The Telegraph that the job posting got about half a dozen responses. The search committee, which consisted of two administrators (including Fierman), two board members, two teachers, two students and two family members from the school, whittled the six candidates down to four and held three in-person and one remote interview. The finalists were picked from that process.

If Fierman and Broadley come to terms and he accepts the contract, he will start work at GM on July 1, 2023.

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